Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The competition




What can I say? It’s been an interesting 10 days for us out here in Lyon…

I think now it seems clear that the competition organisers probably aren't going to ring me up to say that it’s all been an unfortunate mistake and that they want their trophy back.

Putting together the cheeses

Looking back on the day, I remember feeling really un-prepared - Like when I got into the shop’s van with my cheeses safely in the back and realising that I had no idea how to turn the hand brake off.

As I imagine is often the case for this kind of event, there was a fair amount of milling around to help ramp up the nervousness. The competitors were split into two groups as we couldn't all work at the same time. I was lucky to be randomly selected as one of the first group as I think that the waiting (2 hours in a separate room with no access to the outside world) would have really put me on edge.

I won’t mention the subsequent issues in un-loading my cheese and driving the van into a crash barrier (at least it was a movable one and there was no visible damage – sorry Etienne…).

The order of the event was as follows:
  • Presentation of 3 cheeses (chosen at random from the 10 that we were all required to bring) to the jury for marking on taste and affinage
  • Writing a fact sheet for each of these 3 cheeses
  • Creating a cheese platter including the 10 required cheeses and at least 15 of our own choice
  • A test to cut and wrap cheeses to a series of specific weights without scales
  • A blind tasting exercise with 3 unknown cheeses to identify

The competition flew by and it was surprisingly easy to ignore the crowd in front and to focus on the tasks in hand. What was harder though was ignoring the video cameras which were busy zooming in on our work.  I wasted a good few minutes hoping that they would leave me alone so that I could get on with my platter…

In my box, waiting for the fun to start
I don’t have the breakdown of my score across the various challenges as yet (when I do, maybe I’ll go into a bit more detail on this) but there were bits that felt like they went well and others less so. In the ’less so’ camp were the written and oral elements in which my lack of frenchness proved to be a disadvantage. I just really couldn't write as quickly as I would have liked to and my words got caught up when trying to explain why I had picked certain cheeses.

The platter itself took 45 minutes to complete, but I had run through it enough times in practice to know that I could get it done on time, and crucially, where I needed to be at 10 minute intervals. I didn't get everything quite right, but then those that know me will say that I'm always over critical of my work.
The blind tasting was ok, as was the cutting to weight – well, I say that but as I don’t have the marks, I've no idea how I actually did…

As for the prize giving, by that point, I was pretty tired and not really listening to the speeches. I'd sort of convinced myself that I wasn't going to place, and when they announced my name my jaw practically hit the floor…

Anxiously waiting
I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep saying it: I'm massively grateful for all the help and support I’ve received in the run up to this competition, particularly with the Mons organisation and the shop. It’s also been great to hear from all of you who've made contact with me.

I’ll be sure to write more soon!
Coming to terms with the win with my boss Etienne Boissy

1 comment:

  1. You are so modest Matt but I really hope that this makes you feel you have a career in cheese for the future. Looking forward to reading more about cheese!